The Glyptotek is one of the main art museums of Copenhagen and sits among a cluster of cultural centres in the central part of the city. The core of the museum is built around the private collection of Carl Jacobsen son of Jacob Christian Jacobsen founder of the Carlsberg Brewery. Indeed J C Jacobsen named the brewery after his son, a combination of Carl, and the little hill the brewery is sited on, which is berg in Old Danish. Carl Jacobsen first opened his collection to the public in the early 1880s at his family home close to the brewery. As he amassed more artefacts, it soon became clear that a new venue was needed to house the work and the collection was donated to Copenhagen on the condition that they provided a building.
A site was selected on the city’s old fortifications close to Holcks Bastion and the new museum, designed by Vilhelm Dahlerup was opened to the public in 1897. The name Glyptotek is derived from the Ancient Greek verb glyphein meaning “cut into stone” and is an appropriate title considering the wide range of three dimensional works on show. There is a wide collection of Danish and French sculpture including the work of Danes Herman Wilhelm Bissen and Kai Nielsen. A large gallery is given over to the work of Augustine Rodin and displayed are familiar pieces such as the Burghers of Calais and The Kiss. Another of his famous works, The Thinker, is situated in front of the building extensions.
The first extension to the Glyptotek was designed by Hack Kampmann and opened in 1906. Connecting the two wings is a winter garden designed by Dahlerup which is noted for its impressive dome roof. The Kampmann Building contains the Central Hall along with numerous examples of Greek and Roman sculpture. Many of the Roman works imitate famous Greek sculptures from the 4th and 5th centuries BCE, giving an incite into Greek art as many of the original works are now lost.
The most recent addition to the Glyptotek is the Henning Larsen building, sited on a former courtyard and was opened in 1996. The lower levels of the recent extension house the Ancient Mediterranean rooms which house artifacts from the Middle East empires of Assyria, Babylonia and Persia. Also in the lower levels of the Larsen building is the Ancient Egyptian collection. the and Among the principal works, mention must be made of the unique collection of objects from the Amarna Period which saw the reigns of Akhenaten, Nefertiti and Tutankhamen. One of the oldest objects in the museum, 5,000 year-old sculpture of a hippopotamus, is part of the Egyptian Collection.
The first floor of the Dahlerup Building features many works by Danish artists from the early 1800s to 1860s considered Denmark’s golden age. One prominent work by Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg features the wealthy Danish landowner Count Preben Bille-Braheand and his second wife Johanne Caroline. The work was completed in 1817 as repayment for the couple’s support for the young artist’s trip to Paris. Eckersberg would come to be seen as the father of Danish painting. Another Danish painter that has come to recent prominence is Vilhelm Hammershøi and the work displayed in the Glyptotek recalls Hammershøi’s third visit to London in 1905. He went with his wife Ida whom he had married in 1891 and found loadings on the second floor of 67 Great Russell Street facing the British Museum. The deserted street scene featured in the Glyptotek is one of the two paintings Hammershøi made of this subject.
Level 1 of the Henning Larsen and Kampmann buildings are given over to French painting and the wide collection of French Impressionist work such as Monet, Rousseau, and Cézanne. The Impressionist group also contained a number of women artists and the American painter Mary Cassatt is featured with Julie with Her Nurse (1880) a good example of the women and child motif, common to her work. Berthe Morisot was taught to paint privately and in 1864 exhibited at the state sponsored Salon de Paris, before joining the Impressionists in 1874. Young Girl Braiding her Hair (1893) part of the museum’s collection was painted late in Morisot’s career, a few years before her death in 1895. In keeping with the Glypototek’s penchant for three dimensional works Edgar Degas’ famous sculpture of the dance student Marie van Goethem has pride of place in the French rooms. The original piece was sculpted in wax and exhibited at the sixth Impressionist exhibition in 1881. It received mixed reviews, the art critic and novalist, Joris-Karl Huysmans declared that it was the first truly modern attempt at sculpture I know, while Paul Mantz described it as the flower precocious depravity. The work at the Glyptotek is based on a later reworking of the wax sculpture which was cast in bronze during the 1920s.
Carl Jacobsen was passionate about public art and established the Albertina Fund named after Bertel “Albertina” Thorvaldsen, a Copenhagen born sculptor who worked extensively in Italy during the early 19th century. Upon his return to Copenhagen in 1838 he was hailed as a national hero and the fund which bore his name financed numerous sculpture projects in Copenhagen. In 1913 shortly before Carl Jacobsen’s death he commissioned Edvard Eriksen to produce ‘The Little Mermaid’ the character from the Hans Christen Anderson story. The figure sited on the Langelinie Promenade was based on Eriksen’s wife Eline, however the head is modeled on the Danish actress and ballerina Ellen Price. Carl Jacobsen’s vision for promoting public art was fully realised when the ‘The Little Mermaid’ formed part of the Danish Pavilion for the Expo 2010 in Shanghai.
Opening : Tuesday to Sunday, 10am – 5pm except Thursday 10am-9pm, Monday closed.
Adults: 115 DKK
Under 27/students with valid ID: 85 DKK
Groups of ten or more: 100 DKK
Under 18: Free.
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Stuart Gibbs is a graduate of Glasgow School of Art; Stuart has participated in numerous exhibitions at home and abroad. Venues have included Scottish Football Museum at Hampden Park, Annan Museum, North Ayrshire Heritage Centre, and the Peoples History Museum in Manchester. Stuart has written for Shekicks the Football Pink, Discover Magazine and he has also contributed to MG Alba’s Honeyballers and Rose Reilly documentaries, as well as a historical advisor for the Futures Theatre Production Offside.